I declined to speculate when asked in the press box at Greenwood last week how the Bulldogs would stack up against top teams in Class 7A.
It’s a moot point because schools formerly in the largest classification decided 12 years ago to split and form two 16-team divisions. So, instead of writing today on what would’ve been attractive semifinal games involving Bentonville, Greenwood, Pine Bluff, and North Little Rock, I will honor the request of those voters and keep 7A and 6A in separate lanes with no opportunity to merge.
Greenwood and Pine Bluff are the dominant football programs in Class 6A and it’s not even close. They’ll meet in the playoffs tonight for the fifth time in six years in the Class 6A state championship game at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock.
It’ll be the third consecutive trip to the finals for Greenwood, which lost 37-23 to Russellville last year and 28-21 to Pine Bluff the previous year. The Bulldogs won the last of their seven state championships in 2012 with a 51-44 victory over the Zebras.
Greenwood (12-0) earned another shot by whipping West Memphis 45-14 at home in a semifinal game last week. Pine Bluff (11-1) advanced with a 34-14 victory over Searcy.
“We’ve had a great season but we’ve got to finish our business,” Greenwood coach Rick Jones said following the win over the Blue Devils. “Our guys are hungry and they’ve been there before. They know what it takes to get the job done.”
Pine Bluff has won 11 consecutive since losing 20-12 to Cabot in the season opener. The Zebras, as usual, are loaded with skilled position players, including Jyrimee Thompson, who had more than 100 yards receiving and returned an interception for a touchdown last week against Searcy.
Greenwood, as usual, will bring an elite passing game with senior Connor Noland throwing to a handful of capable receivers. But the Bulldogs have a stout defense and an effective running game with Kenny Wood, who rushed for 132 yards and scored four touchdowns, two apiece on running and passing plays, against West Memphis.
There’s not a whole lot that separates these top two programs in Class 6A, except for perhaps the way they win. It’s just hard to imagine Greenwood leaving Little Rock for the third consecutive year without a championship trophy.
RICK’S PICK Greenwood
Other games involving teams from Northwest Arkansas (selections are capitalized).
BENTONVILLE vs. North Little Rock
Arkadelphia at PEA RIDGE
LAST WEEK 5-1 (83 percent)
OVERALL 226-54 (81 percent)
Rick Fires can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter@NWARick.